altaltThe Glorious Adventure by Richard Halliburton (Garden City Publishing, 1927) 
New Worlds to Conquer 
by Richard Halliburton (
Garden City Publishing, 1929)

Last year I reviewed Richard Halliburton's The Royal Road to Romance. I read The Glorious Adventure soon thereafter, and finished New Worlds to Conquer just now.

In The Glorious Adventure, Halliburton describes his efforts to recreate The Odyssey, following the trail of Homer's hero, Ulysses. New Worlds to Conquer is set in Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina, and is my favorite of the three, probably because it is the only one I remember reading as a child. I'm not good at remembering the content of books that I've read, and the rest of New Worlds was foreign to me on re-reading, but I've never forgotten that Halliburton swam the Panama Canal from one ocean to the other, including through all the locks. I particularly remembered that when asked how he proposed to meet the lock fees, he replied, "Just as the other ships meet it, sir. I'd pay according to my tonnage." It cost him thirty-six cents.

There is an inscription in New Worlds to Conquer indicating that it was a gift to my father from his parents. I wonder how young he was when he received it; he was eight years old when it was published.

What I wrote about The Royal Road to Romance is equally true here.

Halliburton's life is not one to be emulated—he died at 39 attempting to cross the Pacific in a Chinese junk—and his stories have a light-hearted amorality about them that can be a little disconcerting, as can the racial attitudes and language of the time. But understood in context, I think this would be a good book for older grandchildren.

There is a good deal of history, geography, and literature woven throughout Halliburton's books, but the educational value does not detract; indeed, it adds much to the adventures. And adventures they are. Halliburton is a poster child for what can be accomplished through guts and gall. A man who doesn't hesitate to throw himself 70 feet into the Mayan Well of Death at Chichen Itza—twice—and voluntarily gets himself incarcerated with France's most notorious prisoners in its even more notorious prisons off the coast of French Guiana, is not likely to live a long life. Halliburton lived only four years longer than Mozart, but like the composer, his accomplishments in those years were prodigious.

I wonder what the Richard Halliburtons of today are doing? The world was looser back when he had his adventures. From Angkor Wat to Machu Picchu, he climbed all over the wonders of the world, and experienced them in solitude. Now there are fences, and guards, and rules—and a very good thing, too, given the hordes of tourists who now descend. But the discovery of Machu Picchu was less than 20 years old when Halliburton visited, and very few tourists would go through what he did to get there.

A careless disregard for personal safety, a rejection of traditional responsibilities, a burning internal drive, and a charming personality can be a recipe for a totally selfish life. But timid folks like me are awed by how much such boldness can achieve.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 12, 2018 at 6:27 am | Edit
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I have these books on my "try to find" list for book sales. Not sure how lucky I will get.

There are still people like this, who live a life full of adventure. One of my college classmates is an adventurer. His goal was to be a bush pilot on all seven continents. I can remember him talking about it in school. I believe he was already a pilot by the time college started. I am not sure he has hit all the continents yet as he seems to have spent a lot of time in Africa and Asia. His website doesn't get updated all that frequently, but check out Tom Claytor. He has been featured in an NGS film called "Flight Over Africa" (I have not watched it).

Posted by dstb on Friday, October 12, 2018 at 7:28 am

He does sound like just such a person.

I read the article on his home page ( and wondered at this passage: "They keep using this word inshallah. ... I have never heard this radio term before, and I am confused by it." Then I realized that the article is from 1997. It will be almost five years before inshallah becomes a household word.

I was also confused by the "Mother Theresa dollar" he says is used to make Yemeni silver. He can't mean the "Diana meets Mother Teresa " dollar minted by the Pacific Island of Niue, since the event that commemorates occurred five months after the article was written, and in any case that coin is only silver plated, not the 85% silver he mentions. Most likely he is referring to the Maria Theresa thaler, which is 83.3% silver and was common in that part of the world.

Adventure lives!

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, October 12, 2018 at 8:47 am

Those are tourist hordes, right, not hoards?

Posted by Stephan on Friday, October 19, 2018 at 5:57 pm

Possibly they are hoarding something, but not likely. Thanks.

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, October 19, 2018 at 9:28 pm
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